Spring Soup & Salad Challenge Week 4

Soup and Salad week 4

It has been a wonderful week, jam-packed with fun, friends and food (which I’ll get to in this post, I promise). One of the highlights included hosting Steve and Susan Vinton, founders of Village School International, while they were here in the Boston area. Back in 2008 I taught with Village Schools and lived in the little village of Sawala, Tanzania. My husband and I returned there in 2012, for a short visit.

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As I reminisced with Steve and Susan, I was reminded of the rich hospitality displayed in Tanzanian culture, particularly around food. Following is a blog post I wrote ten years ago (!) while living in Sawala:

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A Snapshot of Life in TZ

This morning (Sunday) I was too lazy to start a fire and make breakfast. I opted instead to take a three-minute walk up the road to Mama Shemaya’s duka (roadside shop) where I thought I might be able to buy a cup of chai (tea) and mandazi (fried bread). I set out, Starbucks travel mug in hand, planning to be back to the house within a few minutes. Unfortunately, Mama Shemaya had no tea and no mandazi. I decided to walk a bit further in hopes of finding breakfast somewhere else. Soon I ran into one of my students, Tatu, on the road. She saw the Starbucks travel mug I was carrying and asked where I was going. When I explained my situation, she adamantly exclaimed, “I will make tea for you. Go, get mandazi and when you return, come to my house.” A polite decline wasn’t happening, so I promised to return with mandazi for both of us to share over chai at her house.

Shortly after saying goodbye to Tatu, I came to a mama selling soup on the side of the road. A few minutes later I found myself sitting in her living room slurping soup. After finishing and thanking this mama, I continued on my journey and came to Mama Henry’s house, where she was selling mandazi. But simply buying mandazi and leaving was not an option. Mama Henry gave me a big hug and invited me into her home. I tried “my level best” (as they often say around here) to communicate in Swahili to Mama Henry that I was happy to see her but couldn’t stay because I needed to return to my student’s home. She wouldn’t hear of it. After a short visit I purchased two pieces of mandazi; Mama Henry gave me three pieces. I thanked her and was on my way.

I finally arrived at Tatu’s “ghetto” (rented room where she and another student live) where she, her roommate and I talked and enjoyed tea and mandazi together. I couldn’t help but notice the 2004 calendar that hung on the wall as a decoration. When I was ready to leave, Tatu made sure my travel mug was filled with tea to take home. She and Mainess then “escorted” me on my walk home. I arrived back at the house around 9:30am. My three-minute jaunt up the road had turned into an hour and a half excursion. The level of hospitality in this culture never ceases to amaze me!

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It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed from this time. One thing, I’m sure, has not changed: the continual sense of welcome that is displayed in everyone you meet. No need to “schedule” a visit; just drop by. A simple “hodi” (May I come in?) will always be followed by, “Karibu!” (You are welcome!)

I long to create this sense of welcome in my home, too. There’s nothing like a cup of hot soup on a rainy day to do the trick…

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This week I found two delicious gems:

  1. Mel over at A Virtual Vegan will make your taste buds dance with her simple, tasty, nutrient dense recipe for Creamy Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup. I’ve used this recipe on numerous occasions and I’m delighted every time. The only changes I made were adding garlic, because it’s so darn good for you! 
  2. Kristi Barnes, who blogs at Farmstead Chick, offers this healthy and lip-smacking good Whole 30 version of Zuppa Toscana. My one recommendation? Use Butcher Box Breakfast Sausage. It doesn’t get any better and you KNOW the meat is humanely raised with no antibiotics or hormones.

Give these recipes a try and be sure to let me know what you think!

Spring Soup & Salad Challenge: Week 3

I’m a little jealous of my friends who got to spend the week in FL. I’ll let you in on a text exchange today:

Yep, you read that correctly: we had snow this week. Actual flakes coming down AS I WAS DELIVERING SOUP to friends. And while I am more than ready for Spring-like weather, I must admit, Thursday was actually the perfect day for soup. It was cold, raw, rainy/snowy mix… a lovely day to curl up with a warm bowl of some hearty, filling, deliciousness.

Here’s what we tried this week: Dara over at Cookin’ Canuck has a delicious recipe for Hearty Chicken Stew. I am a horrible Italian and for some reason, I don’t care for olives, so I left them out. Other than that, I LOVE this recipe. It’s the kind of soup I can feed my husband and know that he won’t be complaining in an hour that he’s hungry again…

In case you were wondering, this shot was taken on Wednesday (my cooking day) when it actually kind of felt like Spring, so my favorite “Taste Testers” ate outside. My hubs had been on the Carnivore Diet (more on that in a future post), which basically entails eating only meat and animal products. It’s kind of radical and he could only take it for about a week before we decided he needed to include some low carb veggies. All this to say, he was RAVING about this soup. It could have been due to deprivation, but I think it might be just that good.

And then there’s the Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup from Bites of Wellness. If it wasn’t obvious from the previous paragraph, we’re NOT Vegan and yet, this is one of my favorite healthy soup recipes — especially if you are going dairy free. I don’t think I have ever come across a recipe that does such a great job of creating that creamy, cheesy flavor without actually adding cheese or some over-processed substitute. Seriously good stuff here.

Both of these recipes have become regular favorites in my repertoire. They’re easy to put together, filled with nutrition from the whole food ingredients, and taste great. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Also, don’t forget: you can enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the remaining 6 weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! Hope to hear from you!

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A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Registered Dietitian

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & R.D.?

This year has been a journey back to a well-nourished life for me, as I have transitioned from working full time outside of the home (as an RD in the world of Food Service Management), to working full time within the home, caring for my young children. And it has been more of a challenge than I expected! Perhaps, if I’m honest, in part because my expectations of what a well-nourished life looks like, have changed. This journey has prompted me to pause and realize a well-nourished life looks different in each of the seasons of life. Simply pausing is a good start to a well-nourished life in my experience!

Ultimately, for me, a well-nourished life is centered on nourishing my body, mind and soul.

Care for the body is important for many reasons. Three key elements: eating, exercising, and sleeping – all significantly impact how we function, and at least for me, also influence my emotional and mental health.

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As a Registered Dietitian, I am naturally a supporter of healthy eating. The evidence and health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats/protein and avoidance of processed foods – continues to grow. But that’s not to say enjoying some chips or your favorite ice cream should be avoided at all costs. Balance is key. Learning to listen to our bodies is key. I have strived to help teach my kids (ages 2 & 6) to listen to their bodies when it comes to hunger and satiety. I have had some proud mama moments when my 6-year-old stops eating a cinnamon roll or cake as he feels full or suspects more will make him not feel well. This self-regulation is so important to learn and I strive to encourage it. All members of my family get “hangry” when we are hungry or beyond the point of hungry….and the anger starts to flare! So regular eating times are crucial for us to avoid this. Plus, fueling our bodies with nutrient dense foods supports energy for keeping active.

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Exercise and activity have tremendous benefits for our body. In addition to muscle strength and disease prevention, it boosts our mood as well. Even though getting to the gym is not feasible on a daily basis right now, I do prioritize 3 designated gym days and it so helps center and focus myself throughout the week. The other days I strive to just move my body as much as possible through my normal day. Playing with and chasing my very active kids, vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc. My kids actually love to join me in exercise so we often do push ups or jumping jacks or simply have a dance party to get our hearts booming (as my kids say)!

My eating fuels my exercise and my exercise supports my sleep quality. Sleep is an area I am personally striving to get more of! I recently decided to set a goal bedtime, which is a challenge sometimes (most days!). The evening when the kids are asleep is the quiet and calm time of the day, where I typically enjoy a few moments with my husband, watch a show, or catch up on the long list of to-dos (uninterrupted by the needs of the kids). In the end though, listening to our bodies when it comes to eating, exercising and sleeping is critical. Sometimes running that extra mile after you had a poor night of sleep may not be the best idea. Check in with your body. It will often have something to say.

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Care for the mind is also so vital. This one has become more apparent to me upon my recent transition to working full time caring for my family in the home. I love being home with my kids and managing the home front. But my mind needs a challenge. For me, in this season, that has been reading both personal and professional education books/articles or listening to a podcast or webinar on a new topic of interest. I have a list of books (another to-do list) to read, as reading more is a personal goal of mine (it is going slowly, but remains a goal!).

I’m currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Both are very encouraging and thought provoking for me in this season. Nutrition Action is a favorite newsletter I subscribe to, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It is a great resource for science based health and nutrition advice and it’s unbiased.

Care for the soul is, without a doubt, a necessity too. This can look different each day or week, but for me, finding quiet moments for time in prayer or reflection and intentional gratitude are key for nourishing the soul.

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Practicing gratitude has been a tremendous way to keep my mind and soul focused on the positive and helped minimize anxious thoughts or getting discouraged depending on what is happening in life. For me, reflecting each night on the day, taking a moment to says thanks, and letting go of any regrets or things I could have communicated and handled better, is helpful as I lay my head to rest. Each morning starts with a moment of thanks for a new day; it is typically very brief as my daughter calls my name. But the quiet moment of thanks nourishes the soul; instills life and joy as a new day unfolds.

Nourishing the soul has also come through life in community for me. I have found such comfort, support and joy from my dear group of friends, many of who are fellow moms. Prioritizing time in community, whether at a play date, school function, or church gathering (whatever it may be), has been so nourishing this past year!

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Speak kindly to yourself and extend yourself grace. There is only one of you and you are uniquely made and have a purpose!

We live in a culture that promotes the message that we are never enough, perpetuates the treadmill of constant striving to complete our to-do list(s), and urges self-sufficiency through a seemingly silent fear or judgment if you, God forbid, need help. But, if we are honest, the list is never completed. The notorious invisible bar is always being raised higher. So how do we find sustenance in the midst of daily chaos life?

For me, combating this cycle and demanding culture, entails finding the delicate balance of allowing others to support me (yes its true) and supporting one another. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Advocating for what I need and what my family needs, or does not need in some cases.

I just mentioned how being active and exercising is a key component in my view of a well-nourished life. While it certainly is, I recently had a season of life where exercise was not feasible for many reasons. For a while I had the mindset that I was not caring for my body and carried the guilt and unkindness toward myself each day. But when I was honest with myself and acknowledged that sacrificing even more sleep or time with my kids was a bigger detriment, I decided to extend myself grace and let it go. Rather than focusing on whether or not I had exercised that day, I considered it a bonus if it happened. I worked in other small forms of activity. It may not seem like much, but simply letting go, extending myself grace in this area, made a huge impact on my overall sense of health and happiness.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Absolutely! I have a passion for baking and these are a cookie favorite!

Aunt Sandy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pudding

1 ½ cup margarine or butter
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 package chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees.

Soup & Salad Challenge Week 2

I have a confession to make. I ate THREE brownies before bed last night….and then I ate two brownies for breakfast this morning… And even now, as I write this, I am eating brownie crumbs… And I don’t really feel guilty about this very much at all. Why? Because they’re BLACK BEAN Brownies. Which you might think sounds gross, but they’re so not.

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I know this post is supposed to be about Soup. I will get to that, I promise. But can I just share this AMAZING brownie recipe with you? Isabel, who blogs over at isabeleats.com, really hit the nail on the head with this one. 

And here’s the thing: It’s not even Friday yet, but it has been a week. I won’t get into all the details. Let’s just say, I was distracted when making these brownies and I may have put NUTMEG in the blender instead of Cinnamon. Yes, I did that. But I decided to roll with it and see what happened. The results were AMAZING. Or maybe I just like nutmeg… Whatever the case, I was a happy camper with this batch of fudgy, “nutmegy” goodness.

Aside from the nutmeg snafu/brilliance, I made a couple of other adaptations to these tasty treats:

  1. I used coconut oil instead of butter  to make them dairy-free
  2. I used maple syrup instead of sugar (and a little less than called for) to keep the processed sugar to a minimum.
  3. I used dark chocolate chips on top

If you’re feeling brave, throw in a bit of nutmeg when you make these and let me know what you think!

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Okay, now onto soup (as promised). First up was a big batch of Thai Beef Stew. I used this recipe from Danielle at Against All Grain. Definitely one of my new faves! Did I mention that this has been quite a week? Well, I somehow managed to forget to include the broccoli. Even still, I think it turned out well. It’s a rich soup, so definitely best over rice.

And then there’s this gem I came across from Winona over at Pearls and Sneakers: Creamy Paleo Potato Soup. Definitely another keeper! I made just a couple of adaptations:

  1. I added a 12oz pkg. of riced cauliflower blended with broth to make it extra creamy.
  2. I added kale at the end for some extra nutrition.

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Bacon is definitely the best topping, IMHO!

So, that’s what I’ve got for ya this week. Don’t forget: you can enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! Hope to hear from you!

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Spring Soup & Salad Challenge – Week 1

Today was the perfect day to make soup! Outside, the Spring rain was falling. Inside,  I chopped vegetables while chatting with my sister who came down from NH to help me with the kids so I could cook.  She also served as my Chief “Taste Tester” while simultaneously keeping our two babies content. She’s kind of amazing, that girl..

This week we’re trying two awesome soup recipes: Loaded Split Pea Soup (recipe slightly adapted from Delish) and Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup from Marcie over at Flavor the Moments). I slightly adapted these recipes to suit my taste buds (my changes are in italics below), but you can find the original recipe linked above as well us listed under “source”. I’d say both recipes were a “win”…

Note the colored bowls in the pic above from my attempt at getting my family to take a little more responsibility for their dishes. (It’s still very much a work in progress!) Also note the book Q & A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal.We’ve started incorporating some of these questions into our family mealtimes and have been having great fun answering them as a family! It definitely makes for a more enriching dinner time experience.

One other important thing to mention: I LOVE using Esther’s Seasonings in all of my cooking. If you’re interested in getting ahold of her delicious seasonings, give her a shout out. You can also enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! I hope you’ll join the Nourishing Foundations community in this endeavor.

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Loaded Bacon Split Pea Soup

Would you like a side of split pea soup with your bacon? Kidding! But, seriously, this split pea gets its bold smoky flavor from a whole lot of bacon.

Source: delish.com

Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 1 hr

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 large carrots diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • kosher salt I used a mixture of Esther’s Gourmet Salt & Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper I used Esther’s Zesty Peppermill
  • 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth I used a mixture of homemade Chicken broth and store bought organic chicken broth
  • 12 oz. split peas rinsed
  • Freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool, then crumble.
  2. Add onion, carrot, and garlic to bacon fat and cook until tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Add broth and split peas and let simmer, covered, until split peas are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Serve garnished with parsley and bacon.

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Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup

Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup has plenty of warm, curry flavor with creamy coconut milk to make it silky smooth. This is an exciting, delicious way to use that summer squash!

Source: flavorthemoments.com

Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Total Time: 45 min

Yield: About 8 servings

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 34 teaspoon curry powder* I use Esther’s Jamaican Curry
  • 1 12 lbs. summer squash ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces*
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock I use water and Seitenbacher Vegetarian Vegetable Broth And Seasoning
  • 14 cup coconut milk (I used full fat) plus more for serving
  • 12 lime juice of – plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh basil or thai basil, for serving
  • 1 tsp Esther’s Gourmet Salt Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s G.O.G. Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s West Indian pepper Optional

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and curry powder, and saute 30 seconds. Add the squash and saute 2 minutes longer. Add the stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove from heat.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!
  3. Instant Pot Directions (from Jen):
  4. Sauté onion in olive oil. Add Garlic, spices and a bit of broth/water. Cook for a minute or two, then add vegetables and cover with water/broth. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!

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